The City Pool Wisdom
The guy in the next lane knows a lot about a lot, including nutrition, and lives to share it.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) went before Congress, Seaside’s Rick Lagerstrom read the whole thing.
He powered through all 906 pages despite the fact he’s not in government (though he used to teach fitness and nutrition for the military as a retired Army major). He’s not a political junkie or even a policy wonk either, but he polished it off in the space of two days. In those 48 hours, he also used a qualitative analysis program to evaluate how much it referenced terms like “taxes,” “freedom of choice” and “better health care.”
So why, exactly, would he do that?
“People asked what I thought,” he says with a shrug.
He studies labels and nutrition and calories, and pretty much everything else, with the same intensity. Though he has degrees in language, economics and telecommunications management, he’s pursuing a doctorate at Golden Gate University in relationship dynamics, and constantly coaches individuals on eating and exercise at no cost.
“They are my Padawans,” he says. “Half get more into fitness than I do.”
His personal library hosts thousands of books, ranging from military history to politics to food science. He weighs himself – and his meals – every day, and can recite from memory the calories and milligrams in a serving of plain yogurt or an In-N-Out burger (with extra lettuce and tomato).
That attention to detail isn’t exclusive to personal health: Lagerstrom has earned national awards for tuning in 2,500-plus people on how to use emergency radios. He teaches undergrad and graduate business and technology at Golden Gate University. He donated hundreds of hours a year in the classroom when his kids were in school. Camping, hiking and geocaching also factor in.
Some people talk about being a perpetual student. Lagerstrom lives it.
“He’s interested in so many topics, and is so well versed,” says one of his friends and clients, Pebble Beach’s Michael Abbott, “like a human encyclopedia.”
Not long ago Abbott, a former cop whom Lagerstrom had started counseling on weight loss, told Lagerstrom his insurance company wouldn’t grant him disability despite chronic tumors on his spine. Lagerstrom researched the condition to its core and authored a Ph.D.-quality appeal, which was granted.
“He put his life on hold for six months,” Abbott says.
“I might be a little fanatical,” Lagerstrom concedes. “But I like to help people.”
The Weekly found him at Seaside’s Patullo Swim Center, where at any moment he might be explaining why specific fins, stroke techniques and swim caps burn bigger chunks of calories, or why peanut flour is an incredible source of protein. He swims as often as nine times a week.
“Swimming works every muscle in the body,” he says, “at very low impact.”
The most impressive item on his robust résumé – which also includes stints instructing sports physiology and serving as athletic director for an Air Force base – is his own fitness. At 63, he looks more like 40, and out-swims the 40-somethings at the Seaside city pool for good measure. The Weekly pulled him aside after a swim to splash into what he feels are some of his most valuable, and easily applicable, nutritional insights.
Even if you’re unsure of what calorie counts you’re consuming, food journaling is a simple but powerful path to better health. Same goes for a weight diary: Jump on scale at the same time each day, jot it down on the calendar or in a notebook, and something disproportionately profound happens.
“We track so many things: Facebook, movie stars, every player on every football team,” Lagerstrom says, “Five to 10 seconds, and you develop an awareness without really thinking about it.”
He’s seen a neat chain reaction happen from there. “Being aware of your body,” he says, “you will tend to take better care of it, whatever you do. If you imagine yourself as healthier and thinner, you tend to become healthier and thinner.
“With all our distractions, it becomes a touchstone for how you move through your day.”
Splurge for survival.
When calories drop, so does a hormone called leptin, signaling the body to slow down its metabolism and store fat. Over time, you end up with more fat and less muscle mass, even though you’re eating less.
One way to keep that hormone supply strong: Eat big once a week – “Go for it,” Lagerstrom says – and your body doesn’t fear for its fats.
Swapping a mashed and blended banana for oil works wonders in a cake – less fat, no less flavor. Dicing pears in a meatloaf delivers texture and taste while limiting emptier elements. Drop a can of unsweetened peaches with natural syrup – just 105 calories – on cereal instead of milk.
Count on calories.
The Wall Street Journal recently put out research revealing, as far as losing weight goes, it doesn’t matter if you’re eating kale chips and tofu smoothies or cheese sticks and chimichangas – as long as you don’t over-stuff. (Of course, that’s a lot harder to do on healthy foods, and fatty things cause other non-weight issues.)
“We’ve known that for a while,” Lagerstrom says, “but it’s not sexy: No matter what you eat, the bottom line is calories.”
Get rid of empty calories so you can enjoy the ones with some punch. “Throw away two sodas,” he says, “and eat a huge piece of pizza with all kinds of junk on it.”
Do the math, lose the fat.
Making the most of your calories means maximizing protein and nutrients.
A great shortcut: keying in on the line on the label that says “Calories/Calories from Fat.” Sometimes seemingly benign things, like homemade granola, still include a lot of fat and sugar.
Lagerstom tries for a factor of 10: one gram of protein for every 10 calories. Lean pork and turkey qualify; mushrooms bring even more. He loves the new Kashi Golean and Special K Protein Plus cereals.
Since restaurants are often the most egregious with fat, he suggests checking nutritional guides online before going. To eat away at an appetite for 1,000-calorie entrees and deserts, he starts with a crunchy salad.
Pull the protein trigger.
Much is made in bodybuilding circles about protein loading after a workout. While weightlifters pound protein-packed smoothies, Lagerstrom says it’s not so much the amount that’s as important as the signal.
Even a small amount of protein can cue the body to switch from burning fuel (catabolic state) to rebuilding muscles (anabolic state).
“The trigger is protein,” Lagerstrom says. “It doesn’t have to be super high, though more protein is good too.”
Pass (on) the salt.
Chefs and consumers alike are in the throes of a exotic salt fixation. But so is the wider world.
“There’s sodium in everything,” Lagerstrom says.
Ramen, deli meats, sure – but milk? Even in fat-free milk, there’s 135 milligrams. The problem with that: it binds with cramp-preventing potassium. The resulting compound tears up cell membranes, Lagerstrom says.
The good news: It only takes about two weeks to desalinize your taste buds, he says. The renewed sensitivity makes less salt produce more flavor.
Yes on yogurt; cheers for Cheerios.
Avoid banana burnout: Eat plain yogurt.
A single serving of yogurt carries the potassium of three bananas, packs 10 times the protein, and aids digestion with the help of live cultures. Skip the flavored varieties because they bring along unnecessary sugar.
Cheerios, meanwhile, deserve more appreciation than they get. Lagerstrom loves them for their colon-aiding, all-around-awesome oats, and low calories.
Deploy peanut flour power.
This works like a powdered protein supplement, completely naturally. It pairs well with the aforementioned yogurt to create a nutrient-packed, peanut-buttery treat.
Most protein smoothie alternatives are not just cost prohibitive, but are loaded with all sorts of inputs unnecessary to non-bodybuilders.
Embrace low-fat options.
Even though big corporate producers have understandably fallen out of favor with foodies, Lagerstrom says they do the best low-fat cheeses, from Philadelphia’s creams to Kraft’s non-fats.
Lagerstrom layers huge amounts into his famous casseroles. A pan that serves 12 barely eclipses 2,000 calories.
“They cook, taste and eat extremely similar,” he says.
His client, Abbott, agrees. “I love cheeses,” he says. “Your body gets leaner by eating the right types.”
Drink lots of water.
A glass before a meal dents appetites, and aids digestion.
If you’re thirsty you’ll actually eat more, Lagerstrom says, since there’s so much water content in our foods. The kidney loves it when it is constantly watered.
“It’s much easier for people to eat less if they’ve had water,” he says. “I’m a fan of unsweetened green tea – it’s zero calories too. And you’ll enjoy your meal much more.”
Healing and H20, in other words, harmonize a lot like Lagerstrom and helping others.
For more advice, email email@example.com
The City Pool Wisdom